Summary: Jesus does not promise us material wealth if we follow him, but he promises us a wealth beyond anything we can dream of in terms of material goods. His wealth is the wealth of the Holy Spirit and the wealth of heaven. God and Christ are willing to share.
You might be familiar with the term day-trader. A day-trader is a high-risk investor who jumps in and out of the stock marker often many times a day to take advantage of small price changes. Day traders usually do not have any interest in the companies whose stock they are buying. These people are simply trying to catch stocks that they think are going to rise in value and then they will sell and go looking for other quick-pick opportunities.
There are other investors who have become known as “dot-com” investors. They look for Internet companies, especially those with “dot-com” at the end of their names. They spend a little time researching the firms who have these stocks and they buy them on a marginal basis and sell them as soon as the price increases.
Within the church there are some people who can be called day traders and dot-com investors. They know a little about God in reality and many think that they can buy a small share of christianity.com without first investigating Jesus’ claim to being Lord over all of their lives.
At this point in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has attracted a large following. He was so popular that, like a rock star, groupies began to gather. They had heard of his preaching, teaching and healing. They wanted to get close to him and experience his unusual energy. Some even thought that he would be a military-type person who would drive out the Roman army and return Israel to the glory days of the reign of King David. They were thinking to themselves, “Oh boy! Happy days are here again!”, but oh boy, were they in for a big surprise!
Jesus quickly dashed their hopes. He knew what his true mission was and what the cost would be. He asked them to consider the cost of following him, and he asks us the same question today. Jesus calls for an exclusive commitment from us. Everything else in our lives must take a back seat. This is similar to what I was told when I joined the Mersey Band over 30 years ago. At that time, I was told by the bandmaster that my priorities were to be work or school first, family second, the band third and then everything else. Now, for some members everything else takes priority over the band. We must be prepared to leave everything else behind and follow him when he calls us, just like the disciples did when Jesus called them. Faith frees us from those things which keep us from the genuine joy of following Christ.
Moses said the same thing in Deuteronomy 30:15-20 just before he died, and just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land. He was concerned that their descendents clearly knew what was in store for them. They had a choice to make: obey God and be blessed, or disobey God and be punished.
Jesus gives us the same choice today. Our decision has a cost. If we disobey God, we will be punished by eternal damnation. If we obey God, we will be rewarded by Him, but we could be punished by our world today. We may suffer rejection or discrimination. Some of our friends and/or family members may shun us. We must honestly ask ourselves if we are prepared to pay the cost.
Today, as it was in Jesus’ time, he has many followers, but few disciples. For example, look at any church record of attendance or stewardship of time, talent and substance. What is the percentage of those who put Jesus first? There are still many people who seek the blessings but they are either not counting the cost or are not willing to pay it. In other words, they want the benefits but they do not want to pay the costs. Such people seek the cheap “no commitment” blessings he does not offer. Such seeking ends in disappointment and disillusionment. That’s why lots of his followers get discouraged with him in our day, just as they did in his day.
The dangers of being Christian in a violent world have not passed. Recently a group of medical aid workers in Afghanistan were executed by the Taliban, the reason being that they supposedly had proselytizing materials in their possession. All of the victims were associated with the International Assistance Mission, a Christian organization which provided humanitarian relief and aid in Afghanistan for decades. The Taliban claimed they were killed as Western spies who were preaching Christianity; however, security forces in Afghanistan said robbery was the probable motive.
Jesus knew that just as he would be rejected, abused and killed by the world, that his disciples would also face extreme hostility and hatred. Here are the fates of his original disciples:
1. James, the brother of Jesus, and James, the son of Zebedee, were killed by mobs in Jerusalem.